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In what ways did the American Revolution qualify and not qualify as a revolution?

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qtnae87 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:48 AM via web

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In what ways did the American Revolution qualify and not qualify as a revolution?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:01 AM (Answer #1)

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A true revolution can be defined as an event that causes a fundamental change in society.  It brings about a true change in the organization of the society or in its power structure.  Given this definition, it is certainly possible to argue that the American Revolution was no revolution at all.

After the Revolution, the government was dominated by the same class of people (or even the exact same people) who were in government during colonial times.  There was no huge change in society by which the common people overthrew an entrenched elite and took power.  This was nothing like the French Revolution or the Haitian Revolution.

On the other hand, there are those who argue that the American Revolution truly did bring about a change.  The most prominent of these is Gordon Wood.  In his book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, Wood argues that the Revolution fundamentally remade social relations.  He argues that colonial society was hierarchical and based on personal ties of patronage.  The people on top controlled the commoners who depended on them.  After the Revolution, Wood argues, the same people were still on top, but now there was less of a sense that the commoners depended upon them or looked up to them.  This was a more egalitarian society and its creation was truly (Wood says) revolutionary.

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